“Mary Poppins Returns” landed in theaters on Wednesday with Emily Blunt at the helm as the iconic flying nanny.
The role was first portrayed on screen by Julie Andrews in 1964, but Blunt told CNN that moviegoers should not expect her version of Poppins to be anything like the original.
“I remembered how incredible the original one was as a child. I have memories of it but I decided while prepping this not to watch it and try not to get embroiled in it too much, because I think my feeling was if I’m going to play Mary Poppins, I have to take a really big swing and do my own version of her.”
Blunt said her Mary Poppins is very true to the way Poppins was written in the children’s books by P.L. Travers, which debuted in 1934.
“I didn’t want to try and emulate what Julie [Andrews] did,” Blunt added. “That should be just preserved and treasured and kept as just that. So this is just my version of her. This is the next chapter. So I dove into the books and she is very different in the books. She’s very eccentric and sort of funny and rude and yet terribly profound and rather unknowable. I loved that about her. She’s sort of, you can’t figure out her inner workings.”
The film, which is set in 1930s London, tells the story of the Banks children, who are now grown up, and follows their lives and the adventures of Michael Banks’ three children.
The film features all new music, so viewers won’t hear the original’s signature songs like “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Blunt, who sings throughout the film, said that memorizing the songs wasn’t too big of a feat because she had so much time to prepare.
“The singing was the most beautiful, slow-burn collaboration. I was approached for this in 2015 and we didn’t start shooting until 2017. So we really had about a year to work on it and the songs were so familiar to me in my bones by the time we even started rehearsing and prerecording them.”
The reality of playing Poppins hasn’t quite sunk in for Blunt.
“I think my natural sensibility tries to create a light around myself that protects me from digesting that title,” she said, laughing.
But the best part so far has been the reaction of her 4-year-old daughter, Hazel.
“My older one has seen [the movie]. My 2-year-old wouldn’t be able to make it through 30 minutes of it. But my older one was completely riveted and spellbound.”